Subscribe to our blog

Your email:

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

describe the image

Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Information

.Free RainGarden Brochure

Basement Flooding Evaluation Kit

describe the image

Posts by category

describe the image

describe the image

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

New studies provide insight into vapor intrusion at dry cleaners


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) each recently released studies relating to vapor migration control systems at dry cleaners.  The studies were described in the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publication Technology News and Trends (see link below).

 The NYSDEC study suggests that active sub-slab venting/depressurization near the source of a release may have significant benefits as it relates to the potential for vapor migration into surrounding residential buildings.

 The FL DEP study traced the source of a portion of tetrachloroethene (PCE) contaminants detected in a soil vapor extraction (SVE) system at an active dry cleaner to current dry cleaning operations, as indicated by a cyclic pattern of increasing and decreasing PCE concentrations in extracted vapor concentrations on a daily basis.  This finding suggests that the concrete slab is providing little attenuation for vapor migration of chlorinated solvents.

 Link to EPA newsletter :

 For more information regarding the cleanup of chlorinated solvents, vapor intrusion, and sub-slab depressurization please call Charles Young at (508) 747-7900 x126.    

Phase I Site Assessment: What It Is and Why You Need One


When a commercial developer is considering purchasing land for development, a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is essential.  These assessments — which are performed by environmental consultants to determine possible contamination — provide developers with protection against liability. Lenders, recognizing the potentially financial ramifications of contamination, also typically require Phase I site assessments before financing land purchase and development.

The federal government requires purchasers of land to adhere to the “all appropriate inquiry” standard, and Phase I Environmental Site Assessments are the way commercial developers and financiers can meet that standard and thereby qualify for an innocent landowner defense under the CERCA law if contamination is later revealed.


The standard that environmental assessors use in conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessments is published by ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials). Requirements typically include:

  • Research of available records concerning environmental conditions on the site
  • Research on the history of the land’s use, with particular attention to the presence of environmental risks such as hazardous-substance storage or underground petroleum storage tanks
  • An on-site inspection to look for signs of contamination such as chemical spill residue or dead areas of vegetation
  • Interviews with the current property owner, current users of the land, and possibly neighboring property owners
  • Aerial photographs of the property and surrounding land
  • A description of geologic characteristic of the property, such as drainage patterns and topography
  • A report outlining all findings.

Phase I Environmental Site Assessments do not provide conclusive evidence of contamination. If the Phase I assessment finds a recognized environmental condition, the environmental consultant will recommend a Phase II assessment, which involves invasive soil and groundwater testing.


A contaminated site means more than loss of asset value.  It can mean tremendous liability. Smart developers welcome the due diligence of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment.  We recommend that developers discuss their specific development plans and some details of the transaction with their environmental professional so that they may evaluate more fully the risks associated with both the property and the project.

To speak with one of Norfolk Ram's environmental engineering experts about your Phase I Site Assessment needs or to answer any related questions, please contact us at (508) 747-7900

Learn about more about Phase I enviornmental site assessments.

Learn more about our related services.

Click for FREE Phase I Site Assessment Review

EPAs Modified Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) Rule


Entities that manufacture (defined as byproduct or import) chemical substances for commercial purposes, produced in volumes of 25,000 lbs or more, at a site during the principal reporting year may be required to report.  The EPA is currently providing "additional information on byproduct reporting” and the scope of the CDR obligation to report.

 The 2012 CDC submission period is scheduled to occur from February 1, 2012 to June 30, 2012. Such submission should report 2011 manufacturing, processing and use, as well as 2010 production volume information. After this 2012 reporting, the submission period shifts to June 1 to September 30, at four-year intervals, beginning in 2016.

 Submitters are required to use e-CDR web, which is EPA's electronic reporting tool.

 If you have any question about EPAs Modified Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) Rule, please contact Mark Bartlett, PE, TURP at (508) 941-2190.

Source: Pollution Engineering, October 2011

Tags: ,

Successful LID – case study: Casey Tree’s Washington DC headquarters



 Washington DC is a dense urban area, where the city must balance economic and environmental costs of overloaded storm drain systems. But Washington DC has moved away from traditional man-made infrastructure and is now looking for natural ‘’green’’ utilities solutions.

A new draft regulation would require every property owner to retain at least 90% of their property's rainfall runoff or 1-2 inches during a 24-hour rainfall. The Department of the Environment (DDOE) and D.C. Water would like to introduce charges and a stormwater fee discount program to foster the implementation of stormwater runoff management measures.

        Casey Trees, a Washington DC – based non –profit, has a simple solution for the City to be sustainable and to efficiently manage stormwater runoff. The organization fiercely believes in stormwater benefits of large trees. Their goal is to protect the existing trees of the City and to encourage it to add new ones. By planting more trees and nourishing a large urban tree growth, Washington DC could mitigate its infrastructure problems. This is part of a successful Low-Impact Development – project (LID) that Casey Trees experienced for its new headquarters on 12th Street.

Casey Trees wanted to have a building that promotes the efficient role of trees in stormwater runoff management, encourages the city to plant more trees and could be a model for LID. With this building, Casey Trees now belongs to the SITES Pilot program (Sustainable Sites Initiative), with only 150 other projects in the United States.

Wiles Mensch Corp. (WMC) was hired by Casey Trees for the project. This sustainable practice civil engineering firm strives to encourage LID approach to stormwater management. They designed a significant number of rain garden and bioretention areas in and around Washington DC.

Rain garden and bioretention planters are efficient systems in terms of stormwater management and have many advantages:

  • They help avoid overloaded sewers by reducing the flows discharging to the public sewer system
  • The help with a reduction in the potential for combined sewer overflows
  • They encourage groundwater discharge

However, people have been skeptical about the possibility to meet the standard in an urban area. But Casey Trees’ headquarters are a perfect example of how possible and how successful it can be. Their building includes 4 LID strategies:

  • A roof with 25 % vegetation
  •  A raingarden
  • A street tree bioretention system
  • A cistern to collect roof runoff and overflows

Here is some more detail about the LID practices implemented :

THE STREET TREE BIORETENTION SYSTEM:  A bioretention system under paved surfaces.

This is an innovative means that enables a dense urban area to reduce stormwater runoff by reducing the amount of open space needed for bioretention. 

The key of this system is the Deep Root Silva Cell, which is an underground soil and stormwater management system installed under the sidewalk and connected to the rain garden on the other side of the sidewalk. It enables the City to store more water and to extend tree rooting volume.


Tree bioretention systems are useful and efficient in terms of stormwater quantity and rate-control. This efficiency comes from three processes:

  • Soil water storage : bioretention with trees helps direct stormwater runoff from nearby impervious surfaces into soil under suspended pavement
  • Tree interception : this is  a natural stormwater treatment. Rainfall that remains temporarily on tree leaves and stem surfaces then flows down to the ground.
  • Tree evaporation : this is a natural stormwater treatment as well, that helps reduce stormwater volume stored in the soil with evaporation of water from soil.

Thus, trees can provide several stormwater benefits.

Casey Trees’ headquarters are a tangible example of these benefits :  they planted many different sorts of trees in the rain garden and in the retention planters. The system reached its goal because it is now able to manage 5 inches of water runoff and the more the trees will grow, the more efficient the system will be thanks to interception and evaporation. 


A tree bioretention system can consequently improve water quality of stormwater. The bioretention soil filters stormwater and removes some pollutants. It enables the soil’s sorption capacity to recharge in between rain events.

Bioretention is one the best stormwater control measures for pollutants removal. Trees can significantly help to remove nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus. Everyone benefits from this situation. The trees uptake the nutrients and the City has less nutrients and stormwater flow to deal with.

The innovative LID- project carried out by Carey Trees is a model project: by planting trees and implementing LID strategies, they put forward a new way to efficiently mitigate stormwater in a dense urban environment.

If you have any question about LID-projects and stormwater runoff management, please contact John McAllister at or at (508) 747 - 7900 x 117.

Download our complimentary 'Low Impact Design (LID) Executive Overview' here.

Information in this article taken from Sept 2011, article by Al Key and Nathalie Shanstrom , published in

An innovative infrastructure sustainability rating system


         Infrastructure projects have to be carefully prepared because they have lasting impacts on our future. Infrastructure, like highways and bridges, are designed to last a long time – from 20 to 80 years. Because of the longevity of these structures each decision has to be considered and each project has to include sound sustainability practices. The problem is that for infrastructure projects outside of buildings, no systems have been developed to measure sustainability yet. Construction of buildings has the LEED rating system, however no such system existed for infrastructures.

        The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, ISI, was created in 2011 by three members: the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Public Works Association (APWA). The main motivation was to found an institute that could promote the evolution of sustainability principles and practices in the engineering infrastructure field. The ISI strives to be a useful institute that policymakers, regulators, owners, agencies, engineers and many others can consult to have sustainable infrastructure solutions.

The ISI is using a new infrastructure sustainability rating system: envision, Version 1.0. This system is designed to rate infrastructure projects. Envision uses a sustainability approach that includes social, economic and environmental impacts. Envision will be a guide for owners or communities if they want to plan or implement infrastructure solutions.

The envision system has 4 planned stages or project reviews. For now, the ISI is receiving public comments on its website on the first two stages through the end of 2011.

 Stage 1 is a self-guided evaluation process. The user has to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a series of questions that guide the user through criteria. There are 10 primary criteria and 74 secondary criteria. They deal with the sustainable performance of smaller or single-purpose projects.  The main goal of this stage is to give the user a basic understanding of sustainability.

The user earns one or zero points depending on the answer to the questions. The maximum score for the Stage 1 assessment system is 104 points.

 The table below summarizes the 10 primary criteria for project review and their weight in total stage 2 score. 

Primary criteria

Weight %



Project strategy and management


Community : long- and –short- term effects


Land use and restoration




Ecology and biodiversity


Water resources and environment


Energy and carbon


Resource management including waste






  Stage 2 provides a comprehensive assessment and recognition framework. This system allows an owner, engineer or other user to perform an assessment and to look for areas to improve or acknowledge the sustainable performance of a project. Stage 2 uses the same primary and secondary criteria as the Stage 1. The difference between these two stages is that Stage 2 awards points based on a weighted scale with a wider scoring range. This range recognizes higher levels of achievements that include improved, enhanced, superior, conserving and restorative. This rating system provides the users guidance documents as well to help them find the most applicable level of achievement for the project. The maximum score for Stage 2 is 1,000 points.

Stage 3 will more narrowly evaluate existing specific projects.

Stage 4 will focus on complex projects to determine optimum solutions, return investment and project delivery by balancing project features tradeoffs.

The ISI expects Stages 1 and 2 to be available for use on projects for the spring of 2012 and Stages 3 and 4 to become available after 2013. 


Professional assessors have to follow a specific training provided by the ISI to learn how to use the envision system. Then they have to pass an exam to be able to perform assessment of Stage 2 projects.

The ISI will also collaborate with professional verifiers to review and confirm representations from owners and engineers. The ISI does not know yet how much it will cost to have projects verified but it will depend on project size and complexity and it will probably cost from $2,500 to $25,000.

        The envision system aims at being the North American ‘system of choice’ to rate the sustainability of infrastructure. Envision has plans for the future such as creating a formal awards system to award the projects with the highest level of sustainability as rated by the tool.   


If you have any question about sustainability rating systems, please contact John McAllister at or at (508) 747 - 7900 x 117.

 Information in this article taken from Sept 2011, article by Terry F.Neimeyer,published in

Home Heating Oil System Maintenance – What You Need to Know


As the heating season approaches, Norfolk Ram would like to remind you of the importance associated with the proper care and maintenance of you home heating oil system.

Here are some common practices that can help maximize the safety and efficiency of your home heating oil system:

  • Perform routine visual inspections
  • Check the conditions of the tank and lines
  • Make sure the fill cap and vent cap are in place and secured
  • Make sure all pipe connections are clean and tight
  • Schedule regular maintenance with your oil company
  • Install an oil safety valve and replace the line if it does not have a protective sleeve
  • Check for oil drips from the fittings and filter
  • Keep vent clear of any snow, ice, or insect nests to prevent over-pressurization of the tank
  • If you take your tank out of service, also remove fill and vent lines
  • Pay attention to your delivery schedule and oil consumption. If you think your usage is unusually high, look into it
  • Look for signs of spillage around fill and vent pipes
  • Replace old tanks

If you have any question about heating oil tanks and systems or heating oil spill cleanup, please call Jonathan D. Kitchen at (508) 747 – 7900 x 154.

Click here to download Norfolk Ram's complimentary Massachusetts Heating Oil Spill Information Kit for home owners and businesses.

If you've experienced a spill or leak of home heating oil, you must notify the Massachusetts DEP (888-304-1133) and your local fire department immediately.  Learn how Norfolk can help with home heating oil spill clean-up here.

Further information about heating oil systems maintenance can be found at the following links:

Norfolk to speak at UMass Soils Conference


Jon Kitchen of Norfolk Ram Group will speak at the 27th Annual International Conference on Soil, Sediments, Water and Energy at UMass Amherst (the ‘’UMass Soils Conference’’) on the morning of Thursday, October 20, 2011.  The title of the presentation is Fate and Transport Characteristics of Home Heating Oil Releases Based Upon a Review of Empirical Data from Actual Releases.  The study involves a look back at 100 heating oil releases in Massachusetts that we have worked on in some capacity (LSP-of-record, insurance oversight, litigation support, or chemical oxidation subcontractor).  The goal of the presentation is to try to present what a “typical” heating oil spill looks like and talk about factors which make each spill different.  We foresee that this will help us better communicate with regulators homeowners, attorneys, and insurance representatives. 

 Discussion will involve the following:

  • How far do heating oil plumes in groundwater typically travel?  What factors most influence this distance?
  • How long does it typically take to close heating oil releases in Massachusetts?  What factors most influence this?
  • How does the presence of non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL, a.k.a. free phase product) affect the cleanup?
  • What is the typical scale of soil impacts based upon average volumes removed?
  • What factors contribute to “non-typical” plume lengths and cleanup times?
  • How often is indoor air a problem?

 For more information about the UMass Soils Conference, see the link below:

For more information about the study, please feel free to contact Jonathan D. Kitchen at (508) 747 – 7900 x 154 or at .

MA Water infrastructure Finance Commission releases Initial Report


The MA WIFC (Water Infrastructure Finance Commission) was established by the Legislature in 2009 to develop a water infrastructure finance plan for the Commonwealth and its municipalities. Governor Patrick appointed formal Norfolk Ram employee Representative Carolyn Dykema as the leading House member.

To develop this plan, the WIFC is using data from different sources:

  • municipal officials, water department and water district officials
  • groups and agencies interested in water policy
  • environmental and consumer  protection groups
  • professionals that work in water resources engineering including BSCES

This past fall, four public hearings were held throughout the Commonwealth. The WIFC attended these hearings and analyzed the data taken from then.

This past June, the WIFC released an initial report, Toward Financial Sustainability, that summarizes its findings about these hearings and includes Commission’s research.

This initial report deals mainly with seven themes that WIFC identified to investigate:

  • Aging water systems: the water and wastewater facilities in Massachusetts are nearing the end of their intended service life.
  • Increasing costs of environmental compliance: many municipalities in Massachusetts have to improve or upgrade the systems in their level of treatment to meet environmental requirements, treating wastewater and improving drinking water quality.
  • Growth requires new and/or expanded infrastructures: there is a need to invest in new infrastructure to address demands due to commercial or residential growth or emerging problems with stormwater, private wells or septic systems.
  • Increasing costs to pay off curent debt: less funding is available and debt costs are too high in Massachusetts and prevent the municipalities from investing in maintenance and expansion projects.
  • Stormwater mitigation costs are looming: there will be new federal stormwater regulations that will lead to substantial investments in compliance by municipalities without a funding source.
  • New requirements for operations, maintenance, and emergencies: investment at a sustained level will be required.
  • The public has little understanding of the systems that supply and protect its water: people do not appreciate the cost of water infrastructure and it varies greatly between communities.

The WIFC organized working group meetings in order to collect more information and recommendations for the final report.  Fourteen questions have been studied as recommendations to add to the final report.  Some of which are:

  • Fund an asset-based analysis of the gap between projected needs and revenues
  • Use a two-pronged approach to lower the Need Gap that reduces costs and increases funding
  • Adopt USEPA Sustainable Infrastructure guidelines
  • Establish a new ‘ Water Preservation Fund’ or ‘Blue Community Act’ to provide a new sustained revenue stream to assist cities and towns in their water infrastructure investments
  • Invest in Massachusetts as a hub of innovation in the field of water, wastewater and stormwater management 

 The main goal of these reports and the WIFC is to educate the public on water infrastructure and especially on its value and cost.

If you have any question about Water Infrastructure, please contact John McAllister at or at (508) 747 - 7900 x 117.

Information in this article taken from Sept 2011, article by Peter A. Richardson, published in BSCES News.

The incremental evolution of stormwater management and its consequences


For several years, the stormwater field went through different changes that progressively reshaped the way to manage stormwater. Techniques are innovative and scientific understanding is better. And this new trend will continue because the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stormwater rulemaking that is expected to be released this fall is going to bring new changes to stormwater management. The main change could be the attempt to control stormwater at the source, instead of capturing, conveying and storing it.


There have always been many controversies about numeric limits. In 1987 the reauthorization of the Clean Water Act was held and there were many disagreements about EPA’s stormwater permitting program. The EPA wanted a larger use of numeric effluent limits in NPDES permits for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s). However, including numeric standards in stormwater permit is a true challenge that the Congress had difficulties dealing with. Congress finally required that MS4s permit holders reduce the discharge of pollutants to the ‘maximum extent practicable’ (MEP). This is a Best Management practice (BMP).

The issue of numeric effluent limits for MS4 permit holder started to become really controversial, especially when the EPA released a memorandum in November 2010 about the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program.   In this memorandum, the EPA completely changed course stating that permit holders now have to include numeric effluent limitations as part of discharge permits for MS4s, while the EPA was taking the opposite view 8 years ago.  It changed its mind because the stormwater program permit has matured and it realized that ‘the numeric effluent limitations create objective and accountable means for controlling stormwater discharges’.


There are new efficient techniques to manage stormwater by protecting watershed and addressing certain pollutants. These efficient methods are green infrastructure approaches: bioretention, permeable pavers and green roofs. Communities mostly adopt these techniques when regulatory requirements encourage them to do so. For example, communities with combined sewers often use green infrastructures to reduce Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) because this technique has many advantages in terms of aesthetics and quality of life. Green infrastructure approaches are clearly preferred by communities and regulators as the traditional approaches to improve water quality.

However, these techniques face significant barriers to implementation because of:

  • The relative infancy of green infrastructure technology, and
  • The corresponding lack of robust information regarding performance and implementation time frames


A recent legal decision in Los Angeles raised questions about liability for pollutants in runoff. Entities responsible for collecting and conveying stormwater could be hesitant about cooperating regionally if they have concerns about liability for pollutants in runoff. In the Los Angeles case, the Los Angeles Flood Control District was accused of water quality violations because the stormwater that discharges into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers contained pollutants.   After the lawsuit, the decision came up: the Los Angeles County discharged pollutants from its MS4 to the two rivers in violation of its NPDES permit.

This decision could have really significant consequences on the efforts to manage stormwater on a watershed basis. Because of such actions, holders of MS4 permits could limit their liability on purpose rather than seeking to cooperate in addressing water quality issues.  It could also have an effect on MS4 permit holders interacting with neighboring permit holders as there may be a shared liability aspect to consider.


If you have any question about stormwater management, please contact John McAllister at or at (508) 747 - 7900 x 117.


Information in this article taken from Sept 2011, article by Jay Landers published in

All Posts

Environmental Engineering & Consulting Services: Assessment, Remediation, Planning, and Management
Water and Wastewater Treatment | Environmental Site Assessment | Environmental Remediation | More Services
In Situ Chemical Oxidation (Site Remediation) | Low Impact Development (Stormwater Management)
Serving Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, & Vermont
Norfolk Ram Group | Plymouth, MA, 508-747-7900 | Framingham, MA, 508-309-4793 | Contact | Site Map